Does anyone else dread getting their children to clean their rooms? I've been guilty of putting it off until it's unbearable just because I don't want to deal with it. Things changed when I shifted my perspective and made it about my children's well-being instead of, well, me.
Teaching our children how to care for themselves and their surroundings is part of parenting. While I can't determine exactly which skills my children choose to embrace and which ones they scoff at and ignore, it is still my intention to raise self-sufficient, independent humans.
That means teaching them how to clean.
My son's bedroom is small. It currently has a full-size bed that we would love to switch out for a loft or bunk bed to allow him more useable space. In the meantime, he has a limited area to play and store his toys. Legos, hot wheels, books: they are constantly everywhere. It's overwhelming. If it's overwhelming for you, the adult, you can bet it's 10 times more overwhelming for your child.
1. Require it, but don't turn it into an unnecessary power struggle or punishment. This is an important part of growing up. It's important to raise my children to maybe someday live with other people who don't want to trip over their stuff all the time. It's not a punishment. It's not intended as a power struggle (been there, though). To emphasize the importance of this task, we tell Jake that his room has to be clean before he can do *insert desired activity here.* Lately, it's been a Lego video game that I don't like him spending much time on anyway. This kind of direction works well for him. In doing so, we are helping him learn that some things are more important and need to be taken care of before play.
2. Chunk it. Remember, if it overwhelms you, it likely overwhelms your child more. Teach them how to see the mess in smaller, more manageable actions. We have Jake focus on one category at a time. Pick up all the books, then move on to the legos, cars, laundry, dusting, etc.
3. It's okay to take breaks. Categorizing the pick-up allows for natural breaks. My kids are young enough that pushing through and doing everything at once is not a reasonable expectation. It's okay to take a water break after picking up all the books. This actually teaches them how to push through on something smaller and more manageable. It also teaches them the importance of listening to their bodies. Make it more manageable for your kids by teaching them when to take short breaks.
4. Help them. How you help your child depends on age, ability, and development. My two-year-old does not clean her room alone. I take charge and give her small, manageable tasks. My five-year-old can work independently. I check in to encourage, keep him going, and determine if I need to step in to lend a hand. This is a teaching/learning opportunity. We don't come out of the womb knowing how to clean. Like a lot of things, it takes instruction and practice.
How did you learn to clean? Were you guided and assisted or were you left in the overwhelm and told to get it done? Were parental check-ins really just frustrated, equally overwhelmed parents yelling at you to get it done and to get it done faster? If so, would it serve you, your child, and your family to do it differently?
To be honest, helping my children clean their rooms is not on my list of favorite things. Nope. I still put it off and avoid as much as possible. I would rather be downstairs doing my own thing while they do it all by themselves. However, turning them into capable, functioning adults is important. While teenagers are a different ball game, there is plenty I can do now while they are little.
What works for you? How do you help your littles learn to clean and care for their spaces?